Riparian ecosystem resilience and livelihood strategies under test: lessons from Lake Chilwa in Malawi and other lakes in Africa

Abstract

This paper reviews the importance of African lakes and their management challenges. African inland lakes contribute significantly to food security, livelihoods and national economies through direct exploitation of fisheries, water resources for irrigation and hydropower generation. Because of these key contributions, the ecosystem services provided are under significant stress mainly owing to high demand by increasing populations, negative anthropogenic impacts on lake catchments and high levels of poverty which result in unsustainable use. Climate variability exacerbates the stress on these ecosystems. Current research findings show that the lakes cannot sustain further development activities on the scale seen over the past few decades. Millions of people are at risk of losing livelihoods through impacts on livestock and wildlife. The review further shows that the problems facing these lakes are beyond the purview of current management practices. A much better understanding of the interactions and feedbacks between different components of the lake socio-ecological systems is needed to address the complex challenges of managing these ecosystem services. This review suggests that the three small wetlands of Chad, Chilwa and Naivasha provide an opportunity for testing novel ideas that integrate sustainability of natural resource management with livelihoods in order to inform policy on how future land use and climatic variability will affect both food security and the ecosystem services associated with it.

Citation

Kafumbata, D.; Jamu, D.; Chiotha, S. Riparian ecosystem resilience and livelihood strategies under test: lessons from Lake Chilwa in Malawi and other lakes in Africa. Philosophical Transactions B: Biological Sciences (2014) 369 (1639) 20130052. [DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2013.0052]

Riparian ecosystem resilience and livelihood strategies under test: lessons from Lake Chilwa in Malawi and other lakes in Africa

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